Last Updated on May 7, 2021
Whether you’re a professional welder or a casual hobbyist, no welder’s uniform is complete without a high-quality helmet. Welder’s Flash is a very real risk that you must contend with. The best welding helmet can protect your eyes while keeping you safe from all of the other hazards you face.
Not every welding helmet you find is going to offer the level of protection you need while working around blinding light, extreme temperatures, and molten metal. To find the best the market has to offer, we did some hands-on testing of 51 different welding helmets at our garage. Check out our recommended picks below to see which helmets have made the cut.
Reviews of the 10 Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmets
1. Lincoln Electric Viking 3350 Welding Helmet – Top Overall Pick
Lincoln Electric is one of the biggest welding brands out there. The company’s auto-darkening welding helmet offers more than enough protection for most jobs. It covers the entire face, neck, and sides of your head for ultimate safety.
The window is quite large. Though, the coverage of the Lincoln welding helmet may prevent some vision on your sides. Despite this, the lens is very effective. It darkens in only 1/25 of a second. It also has an impressive range. For grinding and non-welding tasks, it can get as light as shade 5. However, once the torch is on, it can go as dark as shade 13.
Of course, you can make adjustments to how the lens performs. With a turn of a knob, you can control how many of the electromagnetic sensors measure light. There’s also a grind mode for better visibility.
All in all, this Lincoln Electric Viking 3350 helmet checks off all the boxes. It’s a feature-rich product that offers some of the best protection in the industry. As such, it’s our top-recommended pick.
2. Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto darkening Welding-Helmet – The Runner-Up
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake this ESAB welding helmet as one that’s made for motorcycle riding. It has a curved shape that covers your entire hide. The helmet even offers neck protection.
The most unique part of this welding helmet is the cover lens. It’s curved to follow the contours of the helmet and serves a very practical purpose. The yellow tint helps to cancel out blue tones and make things look truer to life.
Don’t let the large tinted lens fool you. The viewing window inside is much smaller. However, it does have some great auto-darkening features. The lens can switch between shades 5 and 13 in only a fraction of a second. The feature is powered by a long-lasting lithium battery, which can be charged with the built-in solar panels.
One thing that we like about this welding helmet is the control scheme and flexibility. It uses a touch screen panel to make fine adjustments. There’s even a memory system to help you switch between settings as you like. While the helmet doesn’t have a large viewing window like our top pick, the versatile controls and color-correcting lens makes it our runner up.
3. Jackson Safety Insight Welding Helmet – Best for the Money
The Jackson Safety welding helmet is a great all-around investment that can keep you protected on any welding job. The gear is made out of tough ABS plastic and meets all ANSI safety standards for your peace of mind.
The lens measures 3.94 inches wide by 2.36 inches tall. So, it’s a bit smaller than some other welding helmets on this list. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t serve you well. In fact, the auto-darkening feature is fully adjustable.
With simple controls inside the helmet, you can adjust the sensitivity of the light sensors and modify the delay. There’s also a small LCD screen just below the lens for easy reference. If you need to get some eye protection without the darkening, the grind mode has you covered as well.
This Jackson welding helmet is one of the best for your money. It has a number of important features to improve safety while adding flexibility. However, it doesn’t have anything unnecessary. Thanks to the affordable price tag, you’re getting everything you need without breaking the bank.
4. Optrel Crystal 2.0 Auto-dark Welding Helmet – Premium Choice
Looking for a welding helmet with all the bells and whistles? Optrel has you covered with this auto-darkening welding helmet. Great for TIG welding, stick welding, MIG welding, and more, the Optrel Crystal 2.0 helmet can serve you well in most applications. The lens has a large shade range for flexibility.
No premium helmet is complete without adjustable settings. While most helmets put those controls inside, Optrel has put them right on the side for your convenience. This makes it easy to make adjustments on the fly or switch to grind mode.
From a design standpoint, this welding helmet is top-notch. It’s curved and made from durable heat-resistant materials. The helmet wraps around your entire head and offers some neck protection for peace of mind.
While it does have a much higher price tag than other options, this is our top choice for those looking for a premium welding helmet. It has some great features that can enhance the way you work. There’s even a Twilight mode that gradually adjusts the shade levels. This is a feature that you don’t usually see on helmets. When you factor in the high-quality glass that’s used, the Optrel helmet is well worth the investment.
5. 3M Speedglas 9100 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The 3M welding helmet is very flexible and has a unique design that improves your visibility in any condition. In addition to the standard auto-darkening lens, the welding helmet has two large windows on both sides of the head. The side windows are very tall, making it easy to see what you’re working on. The only downside is that they have a static dark filter.
The main window adjusts automatically. It can get as light as shade 8 or as dark as shade 13. There are also adjustments for the sensitivity and delay.
All of the controls can be found on the inside, which may not be to everyone’s liking. With that being said, we are happy to say that 3M made the helmet pretty comfortable to wear in hot environments.
The inside of the welding helmet has a ventilation system built right it. It can prevent fogging and vision problems caused by your breath. Despite the ventilation, there are no vulnerable open points that let hot air in.
6. Miller Digital Elite Auto-dark Welding Helmet
This protective headgear is another great option from Miller Electric. It has a large auto-darkening window for ease of use. There’s also a color-correcting film applied. It helps to make things look more saturated and realistic.
Inside the welding helmet, you’ll find all of the controls. The helmet uses digital controls rather than knobs. The simple buttons are easy to manipulate in a cinch. Plus, they’re connected to a small LCD screen that you can reference with a glance.
One feature we like about this Miller welding helmet is the four work modes. With a press of a button, you can switch between the standard auto-darkening mode or an outdoor auto-darkening mode. The latter mode makes up for reflections and changing light conditions.
There’s also a grinding mode and a plasma cutting mode available. As such, the Miller welding helmet can provide you with ample protection no matter what job you’re doing.
7. Hobart 770756 Impact Variable
The Hobart welding helmet is a decent welding helmet that’s comfortable to wear. The headgear that holds the helmet in place uses a ratcheting system. It helps you get a customized fit while also making it easier to flip up and down.
You may not even need to use the flipping function that much thanks to the adjustable shade ranges. The auto-darkening lens will get to the right shade level in a fraction of a second. Plus, there’s a dedicated grind mode that reduces the shade significantly for better vision.
The biggest downside that we experienced with this welding helmet is poor general visibility. Despite all of the automatic functionality, there’s no changing the small lens. It’s not even 2 inches tall. As a result, you don’t have as much viewing flexibility.
However, if that’s not an issue for you, there are plenty of ways to make manual adjustments. You can modify settings for the sensitivity of the arc sensors and the overall darkening delay.
8. Antra Auto-Dark Welding Helmet
The welding helmet from Antra has a unique design. It uses both a passive filter and an auto-darkening lens. The passive filter has a permanent shade level of 13. With the automatic adjustments from the secondary filter, this budget welding helmet is great for most MIG and TIG welding applications.
The viewing window is on the smaller side. Plus, it uses lower quality glass that could get hazy after some time. If those issues aren’t deal-breakers, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of ways to adjust the helmet’s performance.
Inside, you’ll find some simple knobs. They can be used to adjust the delay and the sensors. There’s also a battery indicator and manual darkening button to check on the system.
On the outside of this welding helmet, there is a single knob. It’s used to switch welding modes on the fly.
9. Dekopro Solar Powered Welding Helmet
If you’re looking for a welding helmet that has a very large viewing window, this option from Dekopro has you covered. The window is considerably larger than others you’ll find on the market, ensuring that you can see your work area without any issues.
As for the auto-darkening feature, this welding helmet does a pretty good job. The sensors react relatively quickly to the arc. Plus, it can get as dark as shade 16.
One cool thing about this helmet is that it’s designed to protect you in the event of a power issue. If the battery fails, the lense will go to its darkest setting possible, which is shade 16.
The downside of that feature is that the welding helmet tends to stay in the darkest modes available. Even switching to the grind mode was an issue.
10. YESWELDER LYG-M800H Large Viewing Screen Welding Helmet
From Yeswelder is this auto-darkening welding helmet. Overall, the design offers a lot of protection from light and heat. The design of the unit covers the entire face, sides of your head and neck.
We like the comfort system used in this welding helmet. There are four separate straps. This helps to get a custom fit while reducing pressure.
Another thing we like is the location of the controls. While the lens will adjust automatically, there are manual controls on the side of the helmet. Unlike other models, you don’t have to take the helmet off to adjust sensitivity levels, delay, or work modes.
Overall, this welding helmet is a suitable option for most. The viewing window is quite large. Plus, there’s a color filter to improve visibility. These features help to make sure that you can see your work area perfectly.
Buying Guide – How to Find the Right Welding Helmet
Choosing the best welding helmet for your needs is often easier said than done. The market is flooded with products in all price ranges and quality. You can’t put a price tag on safety and protection. When you’re shopping for helmets, keep the following considerations in mind.
Size of Viewing Lens
Welding helmets feature a large face field to ensure that there’s as much protection as possible. The included lens window lets you see your work. The size of that viewing lens can vary quite a bit. More affordable options tend to have smaller windows that only go a few inches passed your eyes. Unfortunately, they can limit your peripheral vision.
Heavy-duty welding helmets, on the other hand, usually feature large rectangular windows that can accommodate everyone. These are great if you want to see more of your surroundings. Plus, they can often accommodate those who wear glasses.
To provide you with the most eye protection possible, auto darkening welding helmets adjust to many different shade levels. A higher range is always best. At the very least, it’s recommended that your helmet gets as dark as shade 10. This level is ideal for Stick or MIG welding. However, if you plan on doing TIG welding or working with a range of materials, you may want to go with a helmet that gets as dark as shade 13.
Lens Reaction Time
Because the darkening process is automatic, there will be a slight delay from the moment you turn on your torch to when the welding helmet will darken to the appropriate shade. It goes without saying, but faster reaction time is always preferred. Differences between products are only a fraction of the setting. Most helmets take between 0.35 and 0.1 seconds to adjust. While those tiny differences might not seem like a huge deal, it doesn’t take long for UV light to do its damage.
Sensors and Sensitivity Controls
Next up, you need to consider how many sensors your welding helmet has and what kinds of adjustment features they have. The UV sensors are responsible for telling the auto-darkening shade to turn on. Not only that, but the information these sensors receive will also determine how dark the lens gets.
Sensors need to be placed throughout the welding helmet to cover any angle. High-quality helmets have at least four. Though, you can find options with even more to ensure that UV levels are picked up no matter what position you’re working on.
Sensitivity controls are a must-have if you’re working with lower amp settings. Sometimes, arcs that aren’t as bright will not trigger the sensors. You can resolve this issue by simply turning the sensitivity up higher.
Lens Delay Settings
Delay settings ensure that your eyes are being protected even when you’re not welding. The delay refers to how long the shade of the lens is maintained after the torch is off. For tack welding, an immediate switch to a lighter shade is fine. However, larger welds can still emit radiation for a bit as the metal cools down. In this case, you’ll want to turn the delay up a bit.
Helmet Power Source
The auto-darkening lens needs power to operate efficiently. In the past, battery power was the only option. These models are still available and offer plenty of flexibility in how you work. However, newer welding helmets use solar power and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. With these helmets, you don’t have to worry about constantly switching out the batteries. Just let the helmet charge in the sun for a bit before use.
Finally, it’s important to think about comfort features. Welding helmets can get pretty heavy. This is especially true if they’re equipped with a lot of extra features. All that extra weight on your neck and shoulders can affect your work performance and efficiency. Keep the helmet’s weight in mind before you make the investment.
More than one adjustable band can help to decrease comfort issues. First, they let you get a customized fit that’s safe. Secondly, multiple head straps help to distribute the weight and pressure evenly. This can help you avoid any pressure headaches and muscle discomfort.
Why is Wearing a Welding Helmet Important?
Welding helmets play a critical role in protecting some of the most sensitive parts of your body. While thick heat-resistant gloves and a safety apron are also important, helmets work to prevent both short-term and long-term damage (click here for more welding equipment).
The most obvious way that helmets keep you safe is by providing a physical barrier between your work and your face. Helmets are not indestructible by any means. However, the thick materials prevent sparks, metal particles, and excessive heat from burning your skin.
Beyond that short-term protection, welding helmets can also prevent issues like Welder’s Flash. The technical term for Welder’s Flash, which is also referred to as “Arc Eye,” is photokeratitis. Essentially, it’s an ocular condition that’s similar to a sunburn. The cornea can be damaged by the extreme UV light that emits from arc welding techniques. Some studies have even shown that the inert gases used in MIG and TIG welding cause more damage than originally thought.
Ultimately, Welder’s Flash can cause long-term vision loss and even blindness. The problem is that the damage isn’t noticed immediately. However, problems can persist the longer you weld without using a mask for eye protection.
Passive Vs Auto Darkening Welding Helmet – Which is Best?
There are two main types of welding helmets. Passive welding helmets are the most basic. They feature a simple viewing window that maintains its shade regardless of what you’re working on. As a result, you have to constantly flip the helmet up as you adjust the electrode or perform any tasks that require better visibility.
Active helmets utilize some advanced technology to provide you with versatility as you work. Also known as auto-darkening helmets, these products have a viewing window that will adjust based on the UV light levels. When your torch is off, the shade will lighten so that you can see what you’re doing. Because of the flexible protection they offer, we recommend auto-darkening helmets for all welders.
There’s no shortage of welding helmets on the market. You can easily find a model that fits within your price range and needs. It’s important to choose the very best welding helmet that you can afford. We recommend the 3350 series from Lincoln Electric. It does very well across the board.
When compared to some of the other models, such as the helmets from ESAB, Jackson Safety, or even Optrel, it does a much better job at protecting you. The sensors work fast. Plus, you can adjust the sensitivity and delay. As a result, this helmet is our top choice. Whether you prefer MIG welding or TIG welding, the Lincoln Electric model has you covered.